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Pearl Jam - Riot Act
Label: Sony
Release: 2002

Tracklisting:
1. Can't Keep
2. Save You
3. Love Boat Captain
4. Cropduster
5. Ghost
6. I Am Mine
7. Thumbing My Way
8. You Are
9. Get Right
10. Green Disease
11. Help Help
12. Bushleager
13. 1/2 Full
14. Arc
15. All or None
Riot Act - Pearl Jam
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The initial expectation of Riot Act is one of an established rock group past it’s prime trying to recreate the magic of the days gone by. There are a few moments on Riot Act that would allude to that; “Love Boat Captain” references the Beatles, Save You is a straightforward rocker with straightforward lyrics, and “Bushleaguer” mocks the current administration. It’s the more subtle moments that show Riot Act’s true heart; “Cropduster” examines the workings of life, “½ Full” recognizes purpose outside of serving those in power, while “All Or None” is perhaps the best example of understated beauty, playing like melancholy ballad. That’s not to say that there aren’t songs that don’t shine on the surface as well as beneath it, “Greendisease” is full of energy as is “Save You”, and Jeff Aments bass lines drive “Get Right”.

Part of the test of an album is how well it plays in concert, and Pearl Jam manages to seamlessly transform many of the songs into concert favorites. “Love Boat Captain” is often greeted by the fans with an extension of “Love is all you need”, while “Greendisease” and “Save You” gets the energy level up. Perhaps the best live transition is “1/2 Full” as it allows for Mike McCready to extended the guitar solo at the end while Eddie Vedder holds up a mirror to reflect the light into the crowd as he moves it across the entire audience.

All of these little details wouldn’t be able to hold together an album on their own, but add up to create an art rock record that has lasting appeal. In the past, Pearl Jam had problems balancing out their artistic talents which resulted in some tension between the band members, but that seems like a distant past with the contributions of all it’s members. Stone Gossard continues his songwriting abilities, Jeff Ament provides the character of his bass lines, and Matt Cameron brings his usual song driven rhythms. Mike McCready and newcomer organ player Boom Gasper create texture with their solos. Eddie Vedder’s lyrics reflect someone who has been through his personal difficulties and over come them while wanting to “make a difference”. Fortunately, he manages to be self-aware, and perhaps self-conscious enough not to fall into the rock star hype that often surrounds musicians. Perhaps that’s why Riot Act doesn’t follow the initial expectations of an album by a band past its prime; perhaps they’re still exploring their potential.


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